by Linda Urban; illustrated by Katie Kath
Interest level: Grades 2-4
Reading level: 3.7
4 out of 5 stars
At 150 pages, Weekends with Max and His Dad is a good transitional chapter book for those readers who are moving beyond a beginning reader. The book is divided into three chapters that focus on three consecutive weekends of Max visiting his father’s new apartment after his parents’ divorce.
The first weekend they are spies, canvassing the new neighborhood and learning about this new environment. The second weekend is titled “The Blues” and we learn that Max’s dad is learning to play the ukulele. We also learn that he is only playing the blues, and it is through these melancholy songs that Max and his dad work through some of the sadness together. The story ends with Max and a friend having a sleepover and working on a class project. When Max’s father comes down with a cold, Max must rely on some new neighbors to help him find the supplies he needs.
Linda Urban does a masterful job of conveying the story by showing the reader scenes and letting us figure out the deeper meaning. At no point does Max, as narrator, tell the reader details. A great example is the first scene of the book.
Max’s father shows him around the apartment for the first time and Max notices that all the rooms are plain white with almost no furniture. His father sleeps on a mattress on the floor. Except for Max’s room. Max’s room has been painted blue, he has football curtains and a helmet lamp sitting on a dresser, and a new bed with a silver comforter. Without being told, the reader can recognize that Max’s father wants him to feel welcome and that he has a special place in this new home.
Max’s story is about a newly divorced father and son transitioning into a new type of relationship. Urban portrays a very real situation, that doesn’t hide the anxiety or awkwardness that both characters feel. The growth that they experience is a great message for young children who may be going through a divorce. It portrays the situation honestly, but also with a hopeful message, making this an important book for library collections.
This would make a good real-aloud in 2nd or 3rd grade.